Smile closes USD365m financing to accelerate 4G expansion in Africa

8 Sep 2015

Mauritius-based pan-African telecoms group Smile Telecoms Holdings, which owns and operates LTE networks in the 800MHz band in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, has raised USD365 million of debt and equity financing to expand its existing 4G mobile broadband networks and services. The funding will be used to accelerate its network rollout, including the purchase of equipment and services from Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson, as well as the deployment of a full MPLS network, a London Point of Presence (PoP) and expanded international backhaul services. The financing will also be used to fund operational expenditure and working capital. By the end of 2015 the firm is aiming for national coverage comparable to the largest 3G network in each of its current countries of operation, and also plans to offer voice services over its 4G infrastructure. Smile will also launch its LTE network in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in early 2016.

The funding comprises USD50 million of equity, raised from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) on behalf of Government Employees Pension Fund, and a USD315 million multi-tranche, multi-jurisdictional debt facility led by African Export-Import Bank with participation from the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Diamond Bank PLC, Ecobank Nigeria, the PIC, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa Limited and Standard Chartered Bank. Smile’s shareholders now comprise Saudi Arabia-based Al Nahla Group, which is the majority shareholder; Renven Investment Holdings; Verene, representing Smile senior management and social entrepreneurs from South Africa; Saudi Arabia-based investment company Telecom Investments; Capitalworks; the PIC; and Smile employees.

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